Just One Bite Won't Hurt, Will It?

dieting drinking Inspirational paleo sugar

I secretly love fashion, but it is not something I indulge for financial and philosophical reasons. As a pragmatist, I feel that clothing should serve a set purpose; I wear gym clothes to workout, I wear rugged clothes when I work, I wear a suit when I need to be presentable. I do not buy pre-worn jeans. I put the tears in myself through excessive use. But I see a lot of people at Zara who come in several times a week just to buy a new shirt or coat, and I find it difficult to wrap my head around the amount of money these people are spending on their appearance.

I do not want to judge too quickly however. Being fashionable is an important part of being socially adept, and I can see how clothing might be a top priority for some people, where food and fitness ranks for me. It also helps to keep in mind that being fashionable can itself be a function of clothing. Clothes that simply look cool can serve a function just as a motorcycle jacket helps protect a biker from the wind. Still, in many cases, functional clothing sets the standard for fashionable clothing to imitate: worn jeans inspired pre-worn jeans. Why not just have the authentic item, and have the story to tell in addition?

This quandary has connections to other areas of life as well. In following my relatively strict nutrition regimen, I have had to give up more than just the insulin spikes and crashes associated with sugar. I've also had to give up the parties, the cookies baked as signs of affection, the shared birthday wishes, and the homely comfort of fresh baked bread. What you eat has a lot to do with social interactions as well. My diet is dictated by what I feel is best and healthiest for my larger life goals, one of which is health, but another is happiness. Sometimes, it seems that to achieve social happiness and well-being, I have to sacrifice my health. People can say all they want about how others ought to respect my dietary choices, but the reality is, it ostracizes me, even if others accept it.

Health is certainly important, but so is social belonging. Sometimes, the latter is necessary for the former, and while it is unfortunate that we have to choose between the two, the world we live in seems to require it sometimes. Unhealthy habits have become the cornerstones of our most popular modes of socializing: eating and drinking. Alcohol is pretty much ubiquitous in adult social gatherings. Sugary treats are almost as common at parties and various gatherings, and if it's not sugary, it is probably starchy (think potato and corn chips), which is just as bad from where I stand.

I find it sad that the choice to be healthy is so often accompanied by the choice to be socially isolated, or at least socially limited. I get along fine with my fellow paleo-dieters. We have parties featuring lots of meat and fresh veggies. But the vast majority of the population does not eat paleo, and drinks alcohol to socialize. So should I limit myself to just those groups that I can mesh with seamlessly? The argument, "you don't want to be around those people if they make you uncomfortable anyway" doesn't hold much water with me, because I know plenty of valuable people who find my health habits alienating.

For me personally, the answer has been careful balance. I have gotten pretty good at minimizing my eating habits when I want to blend in, which serves a useful purpose at times. Other times, I make small concessions so that I can be a part of the festivities. I feel that I have benefited greatly from these allowances, as long as I make the decision to break my normal rules with a lot of careful consideration and do so only in moderation and to the extent necessary to achieve the desired effect. I wouldn't trade the level of health I've achieved for anything, but it is valuable for what it enables me to experience in life, and I don't want to be so protective of maintaining it that I can never experience things that might threaten that level of health.

The purpose of being healthy is to live fully, not to protect and cradle that health jealously and always in fear of losing it.

I am interested to hear how other people balance socially-alienating habits that they find beneficial with their need to fit in an socialize. Post thoughts to comments.

Image source: chotda on Flickr